ProtectDefenders.eu has received very concerning information about the situation of water and human rights defenders in Honduras. In early January, two water rights defenders from the Guapinal community were murdered. Meanwhile, the defenders of the environment of the community of Guapinol and Sector San Pedro, the members of the Municipal Committee for the Defense of Common and Public Goods of Tocoa (CMDBCPT), as well as against the group of human rights defenders from the department of Colón received new threats and acts of intimidation.
On January 7, 2023, in the afternoon, armed individuals murdered Aly Domínguez and Jairo Bonilla with firearms while they were travelling on a motorcycle from the village of La Concepción to the community of Guapinol, located in the municipality of Tocoa, department of Colon. The identity of the perpetrators of this double murder is unknown.
The human rights defenders had been peacefully challenging the development of mining projects in the Carlos Escaleras National Park and were facing strong attacks and threats. Aly Domínguez was the subject of criminal proceedings along with his brother Reynaldo Domínguez and 31 other defenders.
Since the beginning of December 2022, the group of defenders of the Guapinol community have been subjected to stigmatisation campaigns on social networks, which have intensified after the murders of Aly Domínguez and Jairo Bonilla and statements by the Honduran National Police.
On January 14, 2022, an anonymous message was sent with threatening and intimidating content against, according to the message “leaders [sic] of various communities” including Guapinol, as well as Quebrada de Arena, La Montaña and La Conce, all located in Tocoa, Colón. The message also refers to the workers of the Honduran palm oil companies Dinant, Palmasa and Aceydesa, and the Dole Food Company, a US multinational fruit company. All of them operate in the department of Colón.
The message ends with two threatening phrases, announcing, on the one hand, new deaths “on all sides” to “sow chaos in Colon [sic]”, and, on the other hand, warning the workers and communities above mentioned that “the hunt [sic] has already begun [sic]”.
The circulation of this anonymous letter occurs in the context of increasing stigmatisation campaigns on social networks, violence, and death threats against those who defend the land and the environment in the department of Colón.
The death threats and intimidation against those who defend the land and the environment in the department of Colón, including defenders of the community of Guapinol and the San Pedro Sector, as well as the militarisation of the country under the state of exception are extremely concerning.
In a country ravaged by organised crime violence, and corruption, the level of impunity is one of the highest in the region. Journalists are regularly subject to unfounded prosecution as well as regularly assaulted, targeted for harassment and intimidation campaigns, subjected to death threats, and forced into exile. Most of the abuse and violence comes from security forces, especially the military police and army.